Raymond Aubin is an artist in contemporary photography who also writes critiques and reviews in visual and media arts.
Imagine being able to see a whole movie at once, collapsed into a single still image. This is the intriguing experience that artist Ralph Nevins proposes at the Trinity Art Gallery of the Shenkman Arts Centre.
The exhibit comprises of 35 sharp and contrasty black and white photographic prints. Their formats range from square to panoramic, some panoramas measuring as much as 245 x 15 cm. The smaller images are displayed in classic frames while the larger ones are mounted between sheets of acrylic. The contents of the photos are puzzling. Most represent twisted characters and objects against abstract backgrounds or in public places. Some of the subjects appear multiple times over the panoramic images. Other scenes are represented folded onto themselves into circular pictures. In each case, we are plunged into beautiful, uncanny transformations of the familiar world.
The aesthetic of Nevins’ work is so thought-provoking that we can’t help wanting to know how it was achieved. A monitor against a wall of the room gives a first clue. It plays back a twisted, repetitive shot of the visitor moving in front of it, just like the images on the walls!
Nevins, also an engineer, explains. He complemented the back of a commercial reflex camera with an electronic circuit of his own capable of digitally capturing a vertical one-dimensional image – a “timeslice” in Nevins’ lingo – instead of a whole 2D image. The device performs 140 such readings per second. The final pictures are obtained by putting thousands of consecutive timeslices side by side. Looking at one of Nevins’ pictures is like looking at a film strip where each frame would be one pixel wide. The exhibition presents several variants of this basic process: with the camera level or angled and with camera fixed or rotating. One has to see the images to appreciate the subtlety and the variety of the representations.
Besides its compelling beauty, the work of Ralph Nevins explores a new way of capturing movement through photography. It brings us back to chronophotography, at the very beginning of cinema. In the late nineteenth century, Étienne-Jules Marey built a “chronophotographic gun” capable of dissecting movement over several frames while Eadweard Muybridge achieved similar results with an array of cameras. Nevins walks in their steps.
He started toying with the idea of chronophotography by digital means over ten years ago. A simple document scanner was his starting point. He has been working with his current apparatus for the last two years. He’s had five solo shows in Ottawa over the last seven years. His current exhibition has been supported by the ARTicipate Endowment Fund. It is well worth a stop at the gallery.
The Shenkman Arts Centre is located at 245 Centrum Blvd. Timeslice runs until January 6, 2015. It can be viewed daily from 9 am – 10 pm.